Unravelling the mystery of Time Computers

Administrators are searching for the owners of Time and Tiny Computers as they try to unravel the secrets of a complex company

Confusion is growing around the disintegration of Granville Technology, the company which was previously thought to own the Time and Tiny PC retailing brands.

Grant Thornton, the administrators which were sent into Granville after the group collapsed last Wednesday, have admitted that they have been unable to find out exactly who owns the group's various assets.

And, in a surprise development, one of the previous owners of the group has claimed that manufacturing of computers, flat screens and notebooks will continue. Tahir Mohsan, chief executive of Time Group Middle East (TGME), also said that TGME will continue with a $40m (£23m)deal for a manufacturing facility capable of building a million PCs and laptops a year.

At its peak, Granville Technology Group (GTG) had a £300m annual turnover and over a million users in the UK. It owned the Tiny and Time computer brands as well retail chain The Computer Shop. The group collapsed last week with huge debts after its bankers, HSBC, withdrew credit facilities. Its debts could be in excess of £30m.

In order to administer the company, Grant Thornton first has to find out who owns what. The Time, Tiny and The Computer Shop brands could be worth selling, but the question of ownership has proven difficult to answer.

"There is some value in the brands even though they are very tarnished," Martin Ellis, an administrator from Grant Thornton, told The Independent.  "You have to say who owns the brands in the business… [We don't know who yet, but] it's not from lack of trying."

Staff have long voiced concern at the ownership structure of the Time Group which was split into many different companies and brands. Officially, six companies are in administration.

The latest twist in the tale came on Saturday when Mohsan issued a statement saying that "the UK manufacturing facility is not affected by GTG's collapse and will continue to produce plasma and flat-screen TVs as well as notebooks and PCs" according to the Dubai-based publishers, ITP Technology.

"GTG was a major customer of the UK factory and Time Group Middle East is in negotiations with GTG's administrators to support its existing customers. We are looking to increase sales to our other customers to minimise any effects on the factory, however, retail sales accounted for only 15 percent of the UK factory’s operations," Mohsan added.

The manufacturing operation employed around 500 and, according to the statement, could survive. The statement also stressed that TGME was not connected to Granville Technology Group.

To add further confusion, another company called P400.com with a street address close to Time/Tiny that shares its Indian call centre appears to be trading as an online catalogue for laptops, flat-screen TVs and other products from suppliers including Apple and Acer. With its own line of products, P400 appears to be in competition with Tiny/Time but has been set up for some time and sales people at Granville "started to promote it about three months ago", according to a source at Granville.